Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was among the biggest surprises of 2011 – a 3D family film from a director primarily known for his gritty dramas (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, The Departed). The level of craftsmanship and affection for the subject matter resulted in a timeless work on par with the filmmaker’s best, which garnered it 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Visual Effects.
Eight Full Sail alumni contributed to Hugo’s production, and we recently spoke to 2008 Computer Animation grad ZhuoTao Zhang, who worked on the film’s Oscar-nominated effects as a character modeler at Pixomondo in Shanghai, China.
“We knew that we were on a very special movie from the start,” he says. “It was one of the biggest things Pixomondo was working on at that time. To our surprise, we never expected it to get so many positive reviews and even get nominated for Oscar.”
Hugo was ZhuoTao’s first major film credit, and while only on it for a little over a month, he created a number of the character assets you see in the final film. Most notably, he helped with the character modeling and texturing for the digital doubles created for three of the leads – Hugo, the station inspector, and his dog.
“My part mostly involved modeling the character’s faces and additional body parts,” he says. “I played a small role in the process, and it was the work of so many talented artists at Pixomondo that made it possible. The experience I gained was enormous, I’m really lucky.”
Pixomondo has branches across the world, including Berlin, Los Angeles, and London, and will take home the statue for Best Visual Effects if Hugo wins the award on Oscar night. ZhuoTao has been with their Shanghai studio for almost a year, and is understandably thrilled that his first feature out of school has received such recognition.
“Everyone I’m working with was really excited to hear the news [of the nomination],” he says. “For the most part its not about the movie for me, its the experience of working with a such great team, especially here in Shanghai. I feel like I’ve become a part of a family and am learning new stuff everyday.”